Friday, May 30, 2014

BSC #40: Claudia and the Middle School Mystery

By Ann M. Martin, ghostwritten by Ellen Miles. Published January 1991.

Claudia is studying for a killer math test with Janine. She wants to concentrate, but the problem is about measuring out chocolate, and Claud’s like, Bitch, just pour it all in! But she gets the answer right, anyway. Then she daydreams about her art and clothes, but is still able to get the next problem right, too. Janine is all proud, and so am I.

Claudia is a little nervous at the beginning of the test, but calms down, and works her way through it. At the end, she’s feeling pretty damn good about herself. She cracks open the Oreos at the BSC meeting later that day to celebrate, and the girls are proud of her. But Mary Anne has to be a downer and point put she really should wait to celebrate until she gets the test back.

In class the next day, Mr. Zorzi finally hands the tests back. Claudia is thrilled to see she got an A-. Yay, Claud! But Mr. Zorzi asks Claudia and Shawna Riverson to stay after class, and put their tests down side by side. They have the same three problems wrong, and in the same way. And because Shawna is typically a good student, and Claudia is Claudia, he just assumes that Claudia is the one that cheated. It is totes unfair. He says he’ll have to tell the principal, who will tell her parents.

Stacey sits at the Pikes’, and while she’s inside with Claire, the triplets break a window playing baseball. Stacey asks them who did it, but they just shrug and say they’re like the Three Musketeers, and they’ll never turn one of them in. When Mrs. Pike gets home she tells them that since this is the fourth window in three months, they’re grounded until she knows who the culprit is, and they get no allowance until the window is paid off. They won’t budge, though.

That night, Claudia’s parents get the phone call. They don’t blowup like I would imagine my parents doing, at least, but they don’t quite believe Claudia, either. Janine says she does, though, she knows for a fact Claudia knew the material. Her parents offer to go talk to the principal, but Claudia doesn’t want them to. These are the girls who like to do things without any parental involvement, after all. But they tell Claudia Mr. Zorzi will have to give her an F for the test. Janine tries to help her figure out what to do, but they don’t really get anywhere. Claudia just goes to bed feeling like shit because her parents don’t believe her 100%.

Claudia tells her tale at the next BSC meeting, and the girls are fully supportive of her. Except Mary Anne, who tells her if she did do it, it wouldn’t matter to them, and she should confess. She thinks this is being supportive. Mary Anne, you’re being a hell of a buzzkill here lately. Kristy calls her on it, and Mary Anne cries, of course. That always gets her out of shit.

Dawn says Shawna and her friends are in her homeroom, and have been acting strange lately, passing a lot of notes. Then she suggests one of those notes might be incriminating, and she just so happens to know how to get into Shawna’s locker. It was Dawn’s for a few weeks at the beginning of the year. Kristy says they’ll think about it.

Jessi and Mal sit for the Pikes, and triplets are still in trouble, and being super annoying. They speak to each other in Pig Latin, but Jessi teaches them “op-talk”, which just sounds annoying, it’s annoying trying to read. And she can’t get any of them to confess.

Claudia spies on Shawna and her friends in the bathroom one day, cause she’s a creeper like that. But she felt the spirit of Nancy Drew with her. Shawna confesses to the whole thing. She was just too busy with other stuff going on to study, and she heard Claudia telling Mary Anne that her genius sister was helping her study. So she planned the whole thing out. Claudia hurries to tell the others, and they’re livid. They agree to break into Shawna’s locker. Everyone but Mary Anne. What the hell is with her? She just tells them not to get caught.

They decide Dawn and Claudia will do the actual searching, and Stacey will be their lookout. They get in, and eventually do end up finding a note congratulating Shawna on her grade, and amazement that “C.K.’s” test would have so many right answers. They take it, but then Claudia realizes it’s no good. They’d have to explain how they got it, and why would anyone believe it was Shawna’s friend who wrote it anyway? Claudia slips the note back in the locker.

Claudia tries to lure Shawna into a trap. First she tries using incriminating words, like “cheat” and “steal” hoping Shawna will just break down and confess. That doesn’t work. Then she writes in her notebook “If you can read this, you’re a cheater and you might as well admit it”, and she tries to get Shawna to look at it. She doesn’t, though. Then she tries to prove Shawna could see her paper by reading what Shawna’s writing, and gets caught by Mr. Zorzi doing so. Yeah. All pretty pathetic attempts there, Claud.

Claudia and Mal sit for the Pikes’, where the triplets are still grounded, and in pissy moods. Mallory comes up with an idea, and gets them to re-enact the crime. When she sees it, she decides everybody and nobody is at fault. Their mother agrees when she sees it. I don’t. Everyone made a mistake, but it was Byron who actually hit the damn ball. But whatever. They’re ungrounded.

Claudia thinks a re-enactment might work for her, and tells Janine about it. Janine points out that Shawna could just pretend not to cheat, though. But she tells Claudia, with a smile on her face, that it will all work out.

Claudia exhausts herself the next day trying to act like it doesn’t matter and she doesn’t care. And then at the end of the day, Janine shows up at school. She’s says she always had a good relationship with the principal when she went there, and she’s going to talk to him. I guess it works, because he ends up calling Claudia and Mr. Zorzi into the office. He says he and Mr. Zorzi will figure out a way to give everyone a fair trial. Umm, isn’t that maybe what you should have done in the FIRST place?

During class the next day, Mr. Zorzi lets Claudia take the test again, with different questions this time. She only gets two questions wrong. He apologizes to her. No shit, dumbass. Then he calls Shawna up, and tells her she’ll have to take the test the next morning. Claudia doesn’t think that’s fair; she’ll have time to study. Really, he should have made them both take it, separated, at the same time. But before Claud can say anything, Shawna breaks down, says she can’t take the test, and confesses. She gets suspended for two days and gets an F. Yay!

At the meeting that afternoon, the girls, plus Janine, surprise Claudia by bringing snacks on their own for once. Claudia gives Janine the collage she’s been working on as a thank you. And that night at dinner, her parents surprise her with a congratulations cake, the kind usually reserved for Janine.

o   I know it’s remedial math, but fractions and decimals in eighth grade?

o   I’ve always wondered when Claudia actually buys all her junk food. You never hear about her actually getting it. It’s always just there. Do you think there’s a convenience store or something on her way home from school, where she’s considered a regular?

o   Seriously, could this have been handled worse by the administration? They just accuse Claudia, without even talking to her, all based on an assumption? Terrible.

o   What a vague fucking title. How many other books in the series could also be called Whoever and the Middle School Mystery?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

BSC SS #5: California Girls! Part Two

On the day of the Universal Studios trip, Mallory starts the day by pissing everyone off by commandeering the bathroom to put on her gobs of makeup. And then she has to borrow money from Jessi to even get in the damn park. She thinks that since she’s a perfect California girl now, she’ll totes be picked as a volunteer to help demonstrate effects. But she’s not right for any of them. And then she gets annoyed with Jessi for being a know-it-all about the effects, having learned everything on the set of P.S. 162. If being a California girl turns you into a little ray of sunshine like this, I’m happy not to be one.

Erick and Ryan are pretty much the holy terrors Sunny made them out to be. They make a mess in the bathroom with water and paper towels (although Kristy doesn’t make them clean it up), they bitch and complain, and won’t stay sitting when they’re supposed to. However, they go through a simulated earthquake, and that freaks them out and makes them calm down. Kristy’s all proud of herself.

Stephie is the complete opposite, of course. She’s a bit shy at the beginning of the day, but perks right up and gets into everything. Anytime anything remotely interesting happens, Mary Anne freaks out and reaches for her inhaler, but everything goes fine.

Claudia calls Janine to ask her all about world affairs. Janine is actually confused for once, until Claudia explains about Terry. Janine tells her to just be herself, and tells her to ask Terry to join the group the next day. They’re going to look at stars’ homes and such. Terry gladly accepts, saying he loves old movies and stars. They go to Grauman’s Chinese Theater first, and then the Walk of Fame. Then they do their house tour, and Terry gets excited about people the others have never heard of. When they finally sit down for lunch, Terry tells Claud how he got into old movies, and she talks about the BSC, art, and Mimi. Turns out, they still really like each other, and Terry kisses her at the end of the day.

Jessi starts to feel bad about being annoyed with Mallory, so she invites her along on another visit to the set of P.S. 162. Jessi’s a little nervous about seeing Derek, because she’s made up her mind, and she wants to stick with dancing, and not act. Whatever, try to remember that when we get to the shit fit you throw during Starring the Baby-sitters Club. Anyway, Mal is annoyingly loud all day on the set, asking a ton of questions. Then the director asks for extras, and Mal volunteers, but he tells her her looks aren’t right. She just can’t believe that. At the end of the day, Jessi tells Derek her decision, and he’s all, whatever. No biggie.

Mallory is super depressed about what happened. She and Jessi make up, at least. But then she just keeps moping around about her looks, and skips out on going to a movie, and even a trip to Knott’s Berry Farm. When the girls get back, Kristy finds Mal disparaging herself in front of the mirror, and she’s had enough. She gives Mal a talking to, and tells her she liked the old Mallory better. The others agree, and ask her if she’d like to go back to her old self. She would, but the dye’s not washing out. So they all troupe down to the drugstore, and find the shade closest to her natural color. Jessi buys if for her, and she dyes it back. And then Claudia and Stacey offer to buy her makeup from her. Ok. I’m totally sure makeup that worked for Mal would work for them, but whatever. Mal hands all the money over to Jessi. Back to her true self, Mal gets checked out by a cute boy the next day, but she knows she has good old Ben waiting for her at home.

Stacey is on her way home from another day of surfing, with Beau driving. And he just wants to get the hell home. On the freeway, they’re behind a slow moving truck, so Beau jerks into the left lane, and causes a four-car accident. Good job, dumbass. Beau asks everyone to lie for him, but Stacey doesn’t. Luckily, nobody’s badly hurt, but they all end up going to the ER anyway. After Stacey gets checked out, she calls Dawn’s house. Carol answers, and Stacey thinks she’s really lucked out. But as soon as Carol and Dawn arrive, Carol tells her they have to tell Mr. Schafer. Dawn is pissed.

So Stacey has to tell him when they get home, and he’s understandably upset. He forbids Stacey from seeing them again, which she wasn’t going to do anyway, and tells her she has to call her parents. She’s not so fond of this idea. Carol backs him up throughout, and Dawn finds herself actually growing in respect for Carol. She has a talk about it with her dad that night, and tells him she’s ok if he marries her. He’s not sure he’s ready for that yet. Yeah, wait a few more Super Specials. Then Dawn writes a very nice letter to Carol, but decides to wait to mail it to her until she’s back in Stoneybrook.

Mary Anne sits for Stephie one last time, and they decide to have another picnic at the park. On the way, Stephie gets upset about Mary Anne leaving, and has an asthma attack. But Mary Anne stays calm, and coaches her through using her inhaler. Then she gets her back to the house, and calls her father, who tells her to make her rest. So they talk for the rest of the afternoon, and agree to become pen pals.

Claudia goes on another date with Terry, but this time they just get fried chicken, and have a great time. She declares herself in love.

The whole group goes to Magic Mountain, and has a great time. Well, other than Mary Anne sitting out a few rides. Then they go to Medieval Times for dinner, and Dawn and Carol root for the same knight, and bond a little over that. When they get back to the house, Dawn goes ahead and gives Carol her letter anyway. Carol is very touched, and Dawn’s proud of herself.

Dawn has a little chat with Jeff, and tells him to give Carol a chance.

Then, it’s back to Connecticut. There’s the usual flurry of letters at the end. Claudia writes to Terry, and while he does write back once, I think we never hear from him again because he’s put off by her atrocious spelling.

The lottery gets up really high again, and the girls consider giving it another shot. They think they can go visit Stacey’s dad in New York if they win. Or, ya know, they can just do it in the next Super Special anyway.

o   Wait. Do we hear from Terry again, in Here Come the Bridesmaids? I’ve only read it once, I can’t remember.

o   As a theatre geek, my heart is super happy over Elaine Stritch guest starring on P.S. 162. She’s the shit.